Hot Off the Press!
Last week I got the surprise of a lifetime when a reporter from the Daytona Beach News Journal asked to interview me. How exciting! I thought I would share the article with you.
Michelle Cazella, inventor of Dapper Snappers, displays the prototype that started her business.
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 5:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.
PORT ORANGE — It all started because a toddler couldn’t keep his pants up.
Frustrated by the situation, Michelle Cazella, the mother of that toddler, developed a partial belt that fastens through the back belt loops of children’s pants and keeps the waist snug.
She showed her prototype to other mothers and asked, “Is this something you would buy?” The answer was a resounding yes, and in 2008 a home-based business was born.
Today, Cazella’s Toddler Tech USA, which moved from Oregon to Port Orange in 2009, has grown into a thriving company that employs 10 workers and manufactures Dapper Snappers, which are sold in more than a dozen countries.
After deciding to make and sell her product back in 2008, Cazella spent the next nearly two years researching the market and materials, a decision that experts say contributes to the success of any small business.
“You’ve got to do your due diligence,” said Doris “Connie” Bernal, site manager of the Volusia County-funded UCF Business Incubator at Daytona Beach International Airport. “Then if you discover a need, find the solution and create a product that will fill that need, it will succeed.”
Cazella said details are important to her and that she was determined that all the materials in her products, down to the staples in the packaging, would be made in the United States, which, she said, “is an amazing selling point.”
Much of her research time was spent hunting American manufacturers and suppliers who would meet her standards.
A friend suggested naming her product Dapper Snappers. Cazella bought a 1970s heavy-duty sewing machine off craigslist.com and her husband designed the packaging. “It’s interesting how all this has come together,” she said.
At first, she and her husband made and shipped Dapper Snappers from the garage of their then-home in Oregon. After moving to Port Orange to be closer to her husband’s family, Cazella and her husband attended a trade show in Las Vegas to increase the visibility of their startup business.
“We learned a lot at that trade show — how to place our product to get noticed — and we got orders, including from South America,” she said.
After the trade show they moved the business into a Port Orange warehouse, at 413 Oak Place. They have sinced doubled their space in that warehouse.
Now with three full-time and seven part-time employees, Cazella’s company does everything in-house — manufacturing, packaging and shipping. She designs the patterns for the Dapper Snappers, and they dye the material in-house as well.
Most of the marketing is done online, and Cazella uses innovative ways to reach potential customers.
“Word of mom is incredible,” she said. She said she often picks out popular “mom” bloggers and sends them free samples. They write about the product, and the orders roll in.
That’s another way entrepreneurs can succeed, Bernal said — finding new ways of reaching their target markets. Many small businesses fail because they don’t become familiar with resources for marketing. “You need to know all the ways you can market your product,” Bernal said.
Dapper Snappers, which has expanded to include products aimed at older kids, expectant mothers and elderly and special needs customers, sells online to individuals and to retail stores and outlets around the country and the world.
The business ships an average of approximately 5,000 pieces per month, she said, and is approaching $500,000 in annual revenue, which makes Cazella proud.
“We never took out a loan. Everything we made from the business we put back into the business,” she said. “Now we’re to the point where it supports us, but we’re not rich. To have all this and not owe anybody anything – I just love it. … It’s been an incredible ride.”